Iraq is classified as one of the most youthful countries in the world because nearly half of its population are under the age of twenty-one. Unfortunately, unemployment in the country, which, in 2014, the UN reported as 653 thousand, continues to rise along with the poverty rate. The statistics highlight the plight of these groups and the importance of working to provide young people with appropriate employment in order to address this crisis.
How do we reduce unemployment in Iraq?
In 2011, the government provided 40% of employment opportunities, and the private sector provided the rest. To discourage the private sector from its current reliance on products and skilled workers imported from abroad, the country’s young people should be better qualified and raw materials for industry should be produced locally.
Ammar Waleed Al-Ani, the program manager at the International Research and Exchange Council (IREX), said: “Training individuals to work requires developing education, improving all of its plans and programs, as well as qualifying students for work. To do this, the education sector must be in continual communication with the market, conducting in-depth dialogues to identify areas where work is needed, developing new study programs, and looking at which ones can be improved. Moreover, they should not exclude the evaluation and development of education strategies within classrooms; increasing the proportion of applied education, and what depends on the market. It is this kind of improvement that could gradually fulfill the country’s need for skilled workers.”
What is the US-Iraq Partnership Program?
Al-Ani also pointed out that “the basic idea of the university partnership programs supported by the US Embassy is to update the Iraqi curriculum as much as possible and improve the teaching methods used in the classrooms to simulate the rapid movement of the market and ensure that graduates have an abundance of jobs. To do this, a permanent meeting point should be established between the private sector and higher education to study the needs of the market and choose the best way to provide them. This would involve periodic meetings with the participation of various private companies and the Ministry of Higher Education.”
He added that “the first session was held on September 13 in the presence of the Minister of Higher Education and the Research and Development Department of the Ministry as well as the Department of Planning and Follow-up. A group of companies, of various sizes and with assorted disciplines was also selected from different geographical locations to help us better understand the market. Several telecommunications companies were present, including EarthLink and Zain, as were a number of oil companies including Shilom and Qi Card. The Council also included other interested parties responsible for the formulation of education and vocational training strategies for the education, sports and youth in addition to the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs.
“The companies were divided into three working groups, the first will target education and the second will focus on the development of the curriculum. The third, which Earthlink participated in, will add new practical approaches,” he said.
How will EarthLink contribute to the introduction of new approaches at Iraqi universities?
Mohammed Al Awad, Human Resources Manager at Earthlink said: “Our contribution to the project included accurate geographic statistics for the jobs at EarthLink. We also delivered a complete picture of what we and the other companies are looking for in terms of the knowledge, experience, and qualifications that graduate students need in order to find work. We believe the private sector has an important role to play in strengthening the country’s economy. And perhaps helping young people and finding solutions to the lack of experienced workers and the lack of employment opportunities will benefit our society as well as the private sector that is ready to help.”
Mr. Ali Essam, the IT manager at EarthLink, said: “Our contribution to the project aims to create strong and sustainable links with higher education institutions to enable them to keep abreast of market developments and help the workforce understand them.”
He added: “EarthLink’s contribution includes all its divisions including technical departments, accounts and sales, power, the operations control center, the operations department, and human resources. These departments hold meetings within the company to determine which skills graduates will need in order to work at EarthLink. Company representatives then transfer the results to the Advisory Council which discusses them and decides whether or not to add them to the curriculum”
“Our country depends on young graduates right now, and by supporting them and qualifying them, we will be able to achieve what foreign countries have achieved in the development of education – perhaps even more.”
What will the project achieve?
“Last year, together with the University of Technology, we implemented an innovation called the Design Day Exhibition,” says Ammar Alani. The exhibition allows the university to market and sell things that students have produced as part of their studies. Students are encouraged to produce whatever they like. This not only gives them experience but also qualifies them to work after graduation. The result was that four students from the university obtained a patent for their products. One of them also met with the head of the chemistry department of a company seeking to develop a particular chemical product for manufacturing. The company encouraged the student to produce the material, and thus the university became part of the production process and was able to provide the community and the market with what they needed while, at the same time, benefitting the student – the initial aim of the project.”
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